The Purpose of Complacency Talk
The Fed officials have been coming out in speeches the last couple of weeks with rhetoric about ‘complacency’ and other such code words for chasing risk ahead of what the Federal Reserve knows is going to be an abrupt change in monetary policy over the next six months.
The Fed is concerned because they know they want an orderly transition in markets and not causing major dislocations in markets by massive selloffs. However, the getting is so good with interest free money that participants are going to push this edge they have in markets right up until the last possible exit minute.
So despite the fact that QE ends in October with no more bond buying by the Fed, the 10-Year is still sitting at 2.50% with participants making money hand over fist with the borrow at 15-25 basis points and investing in yield instruments with massive leverage trades that has been so popular and irresistible by investors looking for ‘free money arbitrage’ opportunities.
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An Orderly Unwind
The problem that the Fed has rightly identified is that they are not going to get an orderly exit at this pace, the unwind is going to be massive, jarring, and definitely not ‘orderly’! The Bond markets, take the 10-year yield could literally have a 25 or 35 basis point move over a 24 hour period that would wreak a lot of havoc on fund flows, asset classes and financial markets.
This turmoil in the bond market could really be disastrous because the Fed participants realize the bond market isn`t being priced currently where the Fed is moving to in terms of monetary policy. The Fed should be alarmed because the unwind is setting up for a possible 100 basis point move in two months’ time frame type of fund dislocation and reallocation of capital, and that is going to be problematic for markets!
But the Fed only has themselves to blame for this predicament as in this case you cannot have your cake and eat it too! Janet Yellen cannot be so dovish at Fed news conferences given her reputation as a dove among doves, and get any respect from market participants; the trade is going to be all-in and one-sided without the slightest regard for the risks associated with being so aggressive.
In short, Janet Yellen has encouraged the one thing that Fed governors should always avoid being so ‘transparent’ that market participants go full boar on a trade, one-sided, highly levered, unhedged, and nothing could possibly happen with this dovish a Fed Chairperson at the helm trade! In a nutshell they have become too ‘complacent’ or they have taken her dovishness for granted.
Pigs at the Bond Trough
The pattern has been quite clear in Bond Markets wait until after the 200k plus Employment Report blows the 10-Year up to 2.70%, and come in and buy bonds like there is not tomorrow with huge leverage, until they have to get out of the way of the next CPI, GDP or Employment Report – as this process has repeated itself over the last four months of financial markets. The Levered Yield Trade has been the trade of the year so far in 2014 - the strategy of investing in anything with yield from over-valued utilities, pricey bonds and even stodgy low growth Big Caps with some semblance of a dividend yield!
Janet Yellen cannot have her Dovish Cake, and eat it too in the form of an “Orderly Unwind”!
So the Fed has to realize that sending out the minions of the Fed isn`t going to counteract Janet Yellen`s dovishness. If they want markets to start unwinding trades ahead of policy adjustments that are coming and not wait until the last possible minute, then Janet Yellen herself is going to have to send a shot across the monetary bow so to speak!
She is going to have to come out with a hawkish tone to garner some healthy respect for normalization of fed policy by markets. She is dovish we get that, but the Fed is about to change monetary policy, and much sooner than is currently priced into many asset classes, and it is going to take some considerable time if participants started repositioning today to unwind many of these massive positions in markets, any sense or orderliness necessitates a little at a time versus all at once!
Janet Yellen has got to start talking hawkish to get this process started otherwise her worst fear is going to materialize in spades as market participants are all going to wait until the last minute trying to make that last dollar on the yield trade, and cause huge market turbulence when they all try to get out at once!
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The Data Indicate 1st QTR 2015 Rate Hike at the Latest!
The Employment numbers, the inflation numbers, and the risky valuations in financial markets all point to the Fed needing to start raising rates sometime in the first quarter of next year. This is much sooner than Janet Yellen`s Dovish talk has markets pricing in with their forecast for late in 2015 for the first rate hike.
Market participants are far too levered up, all on the same side, and well behind the monetary normalization curve of when the first rate hike is actually going to occur. This is a recipe for disaster, and that seminal light bulb moment in financial markets when everybody realizes, that moment in Margin Call where the analyst drops the ear-buds out saying internally holy shit, that they need to liquidate everything right now. In other words, the entire market all hits the sell button at the same time!